European Travel > Falling in Love with Cesky Krumlov

Falling in Love with Cesky Krumlov

By ELIZABETH TILLEY
Published: October 7, 2008

THE sun is dancing on the Vltava River as we paddle gently downstream towards our destination.

Soon we will stop for another mojito, and perhaps a piece of honey cake, at one of the many outdoor bars etched into the banks on either side of us.

But for now, we just drift, as if in a trance, enchanted by our picture postcard perfect surroundings.

Quaint, lace-curtained pensions set against a backdrop of lush green rolling hills and the silhouette of a magical castle in the distance...

At this moment, it seems nothing could be more perfect.

Even the Weeping Willows appear to be rearing their drooping limbs to bathe in the beauty of the medieval town of Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic's deep south.

This is a place where time stands still, fairytales come true and diets, exercise routines and stress are forgotten at the front door.

Within 10 minutes of alighting from the train and setting foot inside the Gate of Budejovice at the entrance to the village, I was spellbound, and soon found myself asking to stay an extra night and cancelling my pre-booked accommodation at my next destination.

"You'll get stuck here," an old man grins knowingly at me as I walk back to my private pension.

Obviously a local.

But he wasn't lying.

If there is one mistake too many travellers make when they visit the Czech Republic, it's failing to step outside Prague and see what the rest of the country has to offer.

Those who do, quite simply fall in love with Cesky Krumlov.

Whether it be while trawling the crime free, cobble stoned streets for hours, idling in the art and jewellery shops and stopping only to sample a chocolate bon bon from one of the town's chocolatiers.

Or after spending a hot summer afternoon rafting with a group of new-found friends on the idyllic river, which weaves a horseshoe shape through the entire village.

Some people receive Cupid's arrow while indulging in the wicked desserts that can be found in the abundance of enticing cafes and restaurants peppering the streets and the old town square.

In every nook and cranny, there is a new cafe to be discovered and a new local delicacy to be tempted by.

Not surprisingly, Cesky Krumlov is no longer a best kept secret.

Tourists have slowly started to discover this hidden gem and have even dubbed it a "mini Prague".

In the past five years, the town has become a hit with backpackers, who flock here in summer to enjoy the laid-back hostels, lively bars, cheap beer and riverside picnic spots.

But Cesky Krumlov is a far cry from the hustle and bustle of its country's capital and the disgruntled locals who live there - clearly fed up with being invaded by foreigners.

Where Prague has noise, dirt and dynamism, Cesky Krumlov is comparatively quiet, clean and laidback.

Its 14,600 residents are warm and friendly, and at least for now, more than happy to share their town's rare beauty with the rest of the world.

Cesky Krumlov is believed to have been settled in 1253, and the town centre represents a uniquely preserved part of medieval architecture.

Thankfully, it has remained virtually unchanged in appearance since because of it's UNESCO world heritage protection status.

Cesky Krumlov Castle – the second largest castle in the Czech Republic - is the centrepiece of the village with its picturesque gothic architecture and Renaissance fresco paintings, which cover the entire surface of the facade.

Be prepared to take in one of the most breathtaking views you will ever witness in your lifetime when you climb the castle tower, decorated with terracotta busts of the Planets' gods, human and animal masks.

From the top, marvel at the live bears which have been raised since the 16th century in a giant pit at the foot of the castle – just like something out of a childhood story book.

Cross the river to Nam Svornosti, the old town square; have a coffee in one of the pleasant outdoor cafes before investigating the regional museum, with its surprisingly interesting collection including folk art, archaeology and a model of the town as it was in 1800.

Finish off the day with a drink or three at Travellers' Hostel – the best bar in town according to the locals.

In no time, you will find yourself mingling with the regulars and making friends with a myriad of interesting characters, all with their own stories to tell.

Don't leave without being shouted a pint of their favourite beer – Eggenberg – which is brewed in a factory on the outskirts of the village, and learning the local's definition of an "eye lick" and a "body shot".

If you're as lucky as this writer was, you might even have the privilege of watching a local demonstrate these for you, with the help of a shot of Tequila and one of your naïve friends.

Now that is something worth seeing.

Getting there:

There are seven buses which leave Prague for Cesky Krumlov daily.

The trip takes about three hours and buses depart from Na Knizeci bus station, near the Andel metro station in Smichov or from UAN Praha Florenc bus station.

Accommodation:

Hostel 99 offers laidback lodgings set in the city walls, with a sunny outdoor terrace, barbecue, laundry and bike and raft hire.

It also has a brand new private pension, which offers a fully equipped kitchen, sparkling bathroom, washing machine and views of Cesky Krumlov castle.

www.hostel99.com.

For more information visit www.czechtourism.cz.

Comments

1. Wendy, Jan & Eva Lutvey on October 14, 2008

We really fell in love with this article. The writer certainly made one wish one was there. Most enjoyable and well written.

2. Anonymous on October 15, 2008

So romantic! Makes me wish I was there. PT

3. Aileen Devine on October 16, 2008

What a very well written article. It made me feel as if I was there.

4. Camilla on October 16, 2008

Sounds fantastic!

5. Fred on October 17, 2008

What a talented writer this girl must be! I truly felt that I shared this experience and was there myself

6. Anonymous on October 19, 2008

Wow! What an experience!

Pheline

7. Al on November 2, 2008

Sounds like the "eye lick" and "body shot" are worth the trip alone! Great review.

8. Sarah on January 7, 2009

Thank you Elizabeth for taking me on that journey with this piece Cesky Krumlov is now on top of the destination list.

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